In reply to the ABL: a joint statement on behalf of the Depositors’ Union and the World Union Of Lebanese Youths

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17/04/2021

“LIE, LIE UNTIL THE PEOPLE BELIEVE YOU AND THEN LIE AGAIN UNTIL YOU ALSO BELIEVE YOURSELF”

The general secretary of the Association Of The Lebanese Banks issued a statement claiming that the amount transferred by commercial banks to Lebanese students abroad for the academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, respectively, was valued at 240 million US dollars and it concerned 30000 students.

We in the Depositors’ Union and The World Union of Lebanese Youths have been closely tracking this file since the start of the crisis and we can reveal the following :

  1. The Association of Banks and others profiteers have continually sought to mislead public opinion by stating that the number of students abroad does not exceed several thousand and it has persisted in restricting transfers for these students through illegal capital controls. These illegal capital controls are a result of the inaction of parliamentarians since the beginning of the crisis to block the discretionary practices of the banks against students and depositors in general.
  2. The Association Of Banks claims to show interest in the plight of Lebanese students abroad. This has resulted in the famous March 10 agreement with the Public Prosecutor for Discrimination whereby the third clause states that banks must transfer the cost of education abroad in hard currency if the necessary documents have been submitted. It remains ink on paper. In August 2020, the Governor Of The Central Bank Of Lebanon issued circular number 153 containing decision number 13257 which dealt with the transfers for students registered in 2019 and also set the conditions for such transfers. On the 22th of October, the Student Dollar Law was published in The Official Gazette following its approval by the Lebanese Parliament. In spite of this, the banks remained obstinate as to the appropriateness of the transfer process. Following the failure of the banks to heed the warnings and lawsuits from students and their parents, the Central Bank Of Lebanon stated that it intended to issue basic decision number 13257 on the 19th of August 2020 to fix the crisis of student transfers abroad. The Central Bank explained that the issuance of law number 193 dated the 16th October 2020 was binding on everyone and override its basic decision number 13257 of August 2020. Furthermore, the Central Bank declared that to effectively implement appropriate regulatory mechanisms by the Authorities, law number 193/2020 was necessary. It then called on banks to make due transfers. On December 9 2020 the Central Bank issued circular 155 which integrated basic decision number 13297 linked to the application of law number 193 of October 16, 2020. According to this circular, the mechanism for transfer and the application of the law was decided.
  3. The statement of the Association Of Banks insults the intelligence of the Lebanese public in general and students and their families in particular because in the period leading up to the proclamation of the Central Bank in August 2020 and post the student dollar law in October 2020 the bank stopped all transfers. They implemented illegal Capital Controls which blocked the basic living expenses of students abroad. The banks blocked credit card withdrawals outside of Lebanon and selectively made transfers for a small number of students and that for limited amounts.
  4. The 240 million US dollars that the Association Of Banks refers to is a figment of their imagination. Such a sum for the 30000 students would have reassured their parents who are still trying in diverse ways to enforce the law and so preserve the rights and future of their children. If in effect, transfers were made for this sum then this matter needs further investigation to find out who benefited from such transfers. Many students abroad are still suffering hardship while large numbers were obliged to quit their universities for lack of financial resources and return home to Lebanon.
  5. The banks are knocking their heads against the wall of banking laws and related regulations by retaining depositors’ funds. Their latest coup was the failure to implement law number 193. More than that, they practiced intimidation on rightful claimants by deliberately closing the accounts of parents or by refusing to accept student files. They imposed illegal and crippling conditions and many other practices that make us question the absence of the supervisory banking committee and other supervisory bodies. We might have to rely on the judiciary to save our students’ future.

We insist on the necessity to implement law number 193 as a way to alleviate the hardship of an entire generation of students abroad. The statement from the Association Of Banks may be a vain attempt to pretend and propagate a reality that does not exist. They are trying to absolve themselves in the light of the increase in court actions against them for preventing law 193 implementation. The student dollar law only solves part of the problem for the students. If the Association has any credibility left let it publish its statistics with detailed names and data. We are sure they will not do this since their statement is a lie. A lie they repeat and believe absolutely.

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